Hero Tales

Page: 33

Loki came to this place, because he knew that here was the home of the elves who had laid up the greatest hoard of treasures ever known in the mid-world. He scanned with careful eyes the mountain side, and the deep, rocky caverns, and the dark gorge through which the little river rushed; but in the dim moonlight not a living being could he see, save a lazy salmon swimming in the quieter eddies of the stream. Anyone but Loki would have lost all hope of finding treasure there, at least before the dawn of day; but his wits were quick and his eyes were very sharp.

"One salmon has brought us into this trouble, and another shall help us out of it!" he cried.

Then, swift as thought, he sprang again into the air; and the magic shoes carried him with greater speed than before down the Rhine valley, and through Burgundyland and the low meadows, until he came to the shores of the great North Sea. He sought the halls of old Aegir, the Ocean-king; but he wist not which way to go—whether across the North Sea towards Isenland, or whether along the narrow channel between Britain land and the main. While he paused, uncertain where to turn, he saw the pale-haired daughters of old Aegir, the white-veiled Waves, playing in the moonlight near the shore. Of them he asked the way to Aegir's hall.

"Seven days' journey westward," said they, "beyond the green Isle of Erin, is our father's hall. Seven days' journey northward, on the bleak Norwegian shore, is our father's hall. Seek it not."

And they stopped not once in their play, but rippled and danced on the shelving beach, or dashed with force against the shore.

"Where is your mother, Ran, the Queen of the Ocean?" asked Loki.

And they answered:

    "In the deep sea-caves
      By the sounding shore,
    In the dashing waves
      When the wild storms roar,
    In her cold green bowers
      In the northern fiords,
    She lurks and she glowers,
      She grasps and she hoards,
  And she spreads her strong net for her prey."

Loki waited to hear no more; but he sprang into the air, and the magic shoes carried him onwards over the water In search of the Ocean-queen. He had not gone far when his sharp eyes espied her, lurking near a rocky shore against which the breakers dashed with frightful fury. Half hidden in the deep dark water, she lay waiting and watching; and she spread her cunning net upon the waves, and reached out with her long greedy fingers to seize whatever booty might come near her.

When the wary queen saw Loki, she hastily drew in her net, and tried to hide herself in the shadows of an overhanging rock. But Loki called her by name, and said:

"Sister Ran, fear not! I am your friend Loki, whom once you served as a guest in Aegir's gold-lit halls."

Then the Ocean-queen came out into the bright moonlight, and welcomed Loki to her domain, and asked, "Why does Loki thus wander so far over the trackless waters?"